Whether you have decided to start flight training or you are an established military pilot looking to make a transition to civilian flying, one of the first things you will need to do is obtain an FAA medical certification.* One of the more common questions we get is how to go about getting a FAA flight physical when you have never done it before.
Getting a medical certificate should be your first step
If you want to fly, you should have a medical FIRST. Though there are some that interpret it as being required only prior solo, we feel that students should have a valid FAA medical BEFORE they start flying. Military pilots looking to get their FAA qualifications must have a valid military DD2992 or FAA medical before conducting their ATP check ride. This means if you are a military pilot and are currently in a “med down”, “grounded”, or “DNIF” status, then you will need a separate civilian FAA medical.
The process is fairly simple: fill out the online application, schedule your exam and get your certificate. But like in so many other areas, simple does not mean easy. We have previously written on the importance of how to prepare and how to fail an FAA medical exam as well as how to choose an AME, but we haven’t previously walked you through the steps of a first-time FAA medical exam.
Find the right doctors for your flight physical
At Wingman Med, we think you should start with finding a doctor. The reason for this is once you submit your application online you only have 60 days to complete the exam with a physician. Because of this constraint, we feel it is a good idea to have a physician in mind and know what their scheduling availability before you start the online application.
What is the best way to find an AME? The best way is to use our AME finder, Pilot Doctors which is based on the FAA database of qualified physicians, but much easier to use. With that said, we have found that there may be some outdated information in the database so it is worth your time to call in advance and verify they are still in practice and taking new clients for FAA medical exams.
Applying for your FAA medical
Once you are ready to fill out the application you will need to go to the FAA MedXpress website to create an account. With an account established you will be ready to start an application. If you have virtually no medical issues then proceed to fill out the application and schedule your exam with your physician. However, if you are concerned about some medical conditions you have, or are just curious about what to expect from the online application, we have a MedXpress Simulator to try out in advance. You can use it completely free of charge, but you can also choose to have your questions reviewed by one of our Aerospace Medicine Physicians.
If you medical history is uncomplicated and you pass your flight physical with the AME, they can issue you the certificate that matches the application (first, second or third class). You walk out of the physician’s office with the certificate in hand and ready to fly.
If there are concerns prior to the exam or hiccups along the way, then this is where we can help.
* The FAA currently recognizes a military flight physical for the purposes of civilian flying up to 3rd class privileges and within domestic airspace. Additionally, Sport Pilot does not require an FAA medical.
“14 CFR § 61.23 – Medical certificates: Requirement and duration.,” LII / Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/61.23 (accessed Aug. 29, 2021).